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Top govt official in messy land fight

BRIAN CHITEMBA
A COMMISSIONER at the Public Service Commission (PSC) Tsitsi Choruma is at the centre of a farm invasion storm that has rocked the Lands ministry in the Mazowe area after being allocated part of the lucrative Amandas Estate.

The development, farmers in the area say, is likely to disrupt one of the most productive farms in Mazowe District where agricultural production is booming.

Choruma has since occupied part of the Amandas Estates and recently drilled a borehole despite a restraining order issued by the Magistrates Court to protect the other farmer and industrialist Prosper Muchenje —  who was originally allocated the 200-hectare land in 2013.

The PSC commissioner was allocated 50 hectares of land for crops and livestock by the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Development minister Anxious Masuka on March 14, 2022.

But the Zimbabwe Independent understands Choruma was allocated the farm after junior lands officers in Mazowe made recommendations to the parent ministry without involving the Mashonaland Central provincial lands committee.

Muchenje has since taken the matter to the courts challenging the annexation of his farm which resulted in Choruma benefiting.

Some of the letters penned by junior ministry officials include one written by P Chiyangwa, a land technician, supporting the subdivision of Amandas Estate.

However, Lands ministry officials explained that Chiyangwa was a junior officer who was not authorised to write official documents pertaining to land issues.

“Title – land technician is very junior; it’s just above office orderly (office sweeper) and in my view has no authority whatsoever to write that letter. Letters have to be written by the district lands officer,” a Lands ministry official, who preferred anonymity, said.

Mazowe District lands officer Mugove Gasa declined to comment and referred questions to the Lands ministry.

Mashonaland Central chief lands officer Tsimba Albert Tsimba could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone went unanswered.

Approached for comment Choruma said she was allocated part of Amandas Estate following due processes resulting in the Lands ministry issuing an offer letter.

She said she has all the required paperwork to prove that the farm subdivision was done following the procedure.

However, Muchenje alleged that Choruma unleashed a powerful arsenal of retired soldiers in the Mazowe area who are threatening to take over about 50 hectares of the maize crop which is yet to be harvested.

This exposes the lack of respect for property rights, a move that is reminiscent of the 2000 chaotic land reform programme where war veterans and Zanu PF supporters violently grabbed farms.

The latest farm invasion is also likely to scuttle advanced plans to set up a manufacturing plant for maize shelling and an assembling plant for ambulances.

The Concession Magistrates Court ordered that: “Both parties are ordered to maintain peace against each other pending the finalisation of the matter.”

The farm battle has been raging and Muchenje once wrote to Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Monica Mavunga raising corruption allegations against Lands ministry officials.

He explained that Amandas Estates was partitioned to give Choruma without following due process.

Under normal circumstances, the provincial lands committee was supposed to assess the farm and then grant Muchenje an opportunity to make presentations before a decision to downsize the farm is recommended to the Lands minister.

Muchenje then wrote to Mavhunga raising corruption allegations in the subdivision of his land, part of which (subdivision 5) is being taken by Choruma.

“This anomaly is easily illustrated on the map that I have attached to this letter. Plot 5 is forged between Plot 2 and 3. Honourable minister (Mavhunga) may you kindly look into this issue and investigate the corrupt creation of plots 5 and 8,” wrote Muchenje.

A Lands ministry official said the partitioned land on Plot 5 was “non-existent land because it currently belongs to Plot 3 on the maps. Clearly, there are some numbering discrepancies that should be questioned in a competent court of law. Any numbering/replanning requires the authority of the minister.”

Sources told the Independent that if the battle over Amandas Estate continued, the matter was likely to be handled by the Zimbabwe Land Commission (ZLC).

The ZLC has been conducting audits of over 300 000 farms after teams of enumerators were deployed late last year.

Farm underutilisation and disputes are some of the major factors that have tainted the land reform programme.

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